Ken Shine on 1994
Our history with the Newcastle Knights has always been about getting even. Former Head Coach Ken Shine did his part in 1994 when he hatched a plan with his young, keen playing group to get even with the Newcastle Knights after they beat us in round one.
Coming off the high of winning the 1994 Tooheys Challenge Cup against the highly fancied Brisbane Broncos, Shine's Rabbitohs were full of confidence heading into our round one clash with the Newcastle Knights at the Sydney Football Stadium.
When Knights regular halfback Matthew Rodwell injured his knee in their final trials match we entered the clash as strong favourites - although that Sunday afternoon in March would end up leaving the Rabbitohs with a score to settle. A young Andrew John was brought in to cover Rodwell and in his first career match for the Knights orchestrated a 43-14 blowout to the Knights.
The loss would seem to rock the young Rabbitohs confidence; they'd lose their next two matches against Canberra and Canterbury before being further rocked when Head Coach Bob McCarthy would step away from the team due to health issues. Shine would step in for the next four seasons.
That round one loss would sit in the back of the Rabbitohs mind for eight weeks before they could get their revenge.
"The boys always thought they could beat whoever they played against, and obviously that didn't happen, but they were always confident they could do it," said Shine of his 1994 playing group.
"Quite a few of them - Craig Field, Darrell Trindall, Tyran Smith - they were very good young players, they had a few clues about the game and they knew what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go.
"Allan McMahon set it up [the Newcastle Knights] very well. They were very strong and very tough without being too special at times when they first started. But they played tough and played hard and then the year Andrew came along, obviously no one knew what he was going to be like at the end of his career, he always showed signs that he'd be a special player."
Shine and his Rabbitohs started to showcase the kind of danger they could cause on their day as the season unfolded. They went on a seven-match streak between rounds seven and 13.
Circled in their calendar was round 16's rematch with the Newcastle Knights. A chance to get even for the round one loss, and juicier was the prospect of doing it in Newcastle.
It was another Sunday afternoon clash - although this one much colder than round one's clash - and the Rabbitohs were quietly confident as they stepped off the bus at Marathon Stadium. Earlier in the week Shine had sat down with the coaching staff and players and worked out a game plan to stop the Knights.
"They were the favourites to win and we caused a bit of an upset that day," recalls Shine.
"Andrew thought himself as pretty clever with the football. He used to take the ball to the line very well, better than anyone ever, and throw long passes.
"We had a bit of a plan where we thought we may be able to, in particular with our winger Paul Mellor who was very good, we had a plan to try and pick up some intercepts."
The plan worked and they ran out 28-14 victors in front of thousands of rabid Novocastrians. Paul Mellor would grab a hat-trick in the match and the win would go down as the Rabbitohs first victory in Newcastle.
We'd go on to finish the season in 9th-place (Newcastle finished in 10th) improving on 1993's 14th-placed finish.
"1994 was probably our strongest side albeit we didn't have a lot of money. We had an ex-international in Mark McGaw who came in about a third way into the season and we had a lot of players, good, strong keen players who were aged between that sort of 20-25 mark," said Shine.
"They were all very keen and all did very well because we did win the Challenge Cup at the start of that year which got them on a high."
Match report supplied by Michael Curin
Newcastle coach David Waite criticised the attitude of his team after it suffered a potentially critical loss on what was the day of the intercept at Marathon Stadium.
A week after stampeding into the top five with a history-making and enthralling win over Brisbane, Newcastle slipped out again with a bungling performance that smelled distinctly of over-confidence.
South Sydney's opportunistic 28-14 success, which followed two hammerings, propels them into equal fifth status, scoring three tries from intercepts, two by teenage centre Paul Mellor, whose reading of the Knights' attack was better than that of some of Newcastle's own players.
Souths deserve praise for recovering from a demoralising fortnight and performing in a hostile environment against a buoyant side which enjoyed a glut of possession in great field position.
They repelled umpteen raids with a fortified defence that frustrated the Knights.
Souths coach Ken Shine said defence had been worked on all week, and the intercepts were not flukes, but a result of pressure.
"The Johns boys (Andrew and Matty) like to throw the ball around, because Newcastle like to play that way, so if you move up in defence, anything can happen," Shine said.
A vocal and considerable portion of the Marathon Stadium crowd thought the intercepts were the result of constant off-side play and referee Bill Harrigan's failure to penalise it, but the Knights coach David Waite was right to dismiss this as indecisive.
There were some fine Souths performers, none better than the tireless and skilful second-rower Jeremy Donougher, and the intense playmaker, halfback Craig Field.
Shine was impressed with rookie winger Craig Gibson, aged 18, the scorer of the other intercept try, who the coach noticed playing Jersey Flegg nine weeks ago and thought, 'this kid can play".
But this was a match that will be remembered as much for the bad as the good.
Andrew 'Joey' Johns threw two of the passes that ended in tries at the wrong end of the field, while Souths' winger, Mark McGaw, bungled two kick retrievals, both mistakes resulting in tries.
If the Knights do not make the semis in September, they will reflect unhappily on this chilly afternoon of July 17. Waite denied the intensity was more than fractionally lower than last week's, but the Knights committed the sin of taking a good team lightly after trouncing a great one, and Souths were more than happy to take the honours.
South Sydney 28 (P.Mellor 3, J.Bell, C.Gibson tries; D.Trindall 4 goals)
Newcastle 14 (R.Wyer, P.Harragon, J.Ainscough tries; A.Johns goal) at Marathon Stadium, Newcastle, Sunday, July 17, 1994 (3pm).
Crowd: 17,511. Referee: Bill Harrigan. Halftime: Souths 18‐6. Scrums: Newcastle 13‐4. Penalties: Newcastle 9‐6.
Goalkickers: Trindall (Souths) 4/5, A.Johns (Newcastle) 1/3. Weather: Chilly.
SOUTHS: Darrell Trindall; Mark McGaw, Paul Mellor, Jacin Sinclair, Craig Gibson; Shane Wilson, Craig Field (c); Brett Goldspink, Jason Bell, Terry Hermansson, Tony Mestrov, Jeremy Donougher, Tyran Smith. Interchange: John Elias, Darren Maroon. Coach: Ken Shine.
NEWCASTLE: Robbie O'Davis; Nathan Barnes, Jamie Ainscough, Russell Wyer, Brad Godden; Matthew Johns, Andrew Johns; Mark Sargent (c), Robert McCormack, Paul Harragon, Darren Treacy, Adam Muir, Marc Glanville. Interchange: Wayne Richards, Tony Butterfield. Coach: David Waite.
6 min: South Sydney 6‐0 (Bell try; Trindall goal)
23 min: South Sydney 12‐0 (Mellor try; Trindall goal) 27 min: South Sydney 12‐4 (Wyer try)
31 min: South Sydney 12‐6 (A.Johns goal)
38 min: South Sydney 18‐6 (Mellor try; Trindall goal) 56 min: South Sydney 18‐10 (Harragon try)
59 min: South Sydney 18‐14 (Ainscough try) 62 min: South Sydney 22‐14 (Mellor try)
75 min: South Sydney 28‐14 (Gibson try; Trindall goal)